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Upstate New York man pleads guilty to international parental kidnapping

BUFFALO, N.Y. — An upstate New York man pleaded guilty to international parental kidnapping of a child. The charge carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a $250,000 fine. This case is being investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Tricia Griffith, 37, formerly of Niagara Falls, N.Y., admitted taking her child from a residence in Niagara Falls to Jamaica in June 2010. The defendant left the area without the knowledge of the child's father and in violation of a court order of custody issued previously by a Niagara County Supreme Court judge. Griffith was arrested several months later at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York by ICE HSI special agents when she returned to the United States without the child. The child remains outside of the United States at this time.

"Any parent's worst nightmare is not knowing the whereabouts of his or her child," said U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr, Western District of New York. "The tragedy in this case is that while the defendant has now been convicted, the whereabouts of the child remain unknown. Our Office will continue to work with the appropriate authorities to help to seek the return of the child to the father."

Assistance is available to parents of internationally abducted children through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the U.S. Department of State Office of Children's Issues.

Sentencing is scheduled for March 16, 2012. Assistant U.S. Attorney Fauzia K. Mattingly is prosecuting this case.